Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

A Gamer’s Guide to Retaining Millennials

From retention to compliance, there were a number of trending topics on the Ceridian HCM Blog this year. For the rest of December, we will be revisiting 10 of our most popular blog posts of 2016. Enjoy!

One of the biggest challenges that employers consistently talk about when it comes to managing millennials is low retention; all too often I’ve heard this voiced as, “millennials just have no loyalty to anything or anyone.”  So how is it that video game producers have kept so many of us playing the same game franchises for years (sometimes lifetimes) with levels of devotion that can border on fanaticism? I argue that the challenge in retaining millennials has nothing to do with a lack of loyalty, but rather, the challenge comes from inherently different expectations of their workplace.

For many millennials, video games were like our first job. Objectives to complete, usually in a limited time frame, with obstacles to overcome at every step – sounds familiar right? Looking to the video game industry as a model for long term retention of millennials, we can apply some key teachings to the world of work.

Most good games have levels

One of the most common shared feature among video games is the use of levels. The game starts off easy and gets more and more difficult as you move through a designed path of levels. With each new level, you learn new skills that you need to use to be successful in the levels to come. Levels help keep a game interesting enough so that we continue to play even though the fundamental concept of the game stays the same. Jobs shouldn’t be any different. When managing millennials, think about how you can add “levels” to make our jobs more challenging over time as they get more proficient. These levels can come in the form of adding new responsibilities and creating leadership opportunities. Or if that’s not an option, millennials benefit from a greater variety in the types of activities performed on a daily basis. Just like a video game, a job can continue to be interesting and engaging as long as there’s always new challenges.

The most successful gaming companies are built on franchises

In just about any video game, you inevitably run out of levels – also known as beating the game. Once you’ve beaten the game, you don’t usually continue to play it because, well… why would you? If you follow the video game industry even a little bit, you’ve probably heard of the Call of Duty (CoD) franchise. One key element to the success of CoD in keeping its players coming back for more is a constant release cycle of new games – 13 releases in 12 years (15 if you count the versions exclusive for iOS and Android). In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a trailer for the next game in the franchise within a few months of the latest release. Applying this to the workplace, you can think of video game franchises as careers. If you want to be successful hiring and retaining millennials, you should design clear career paths that we can follow within your organization. Just like if a video game franchise stops producing new games its players will pick-up a new franchise, an employee will find a new company if their career path runs out of steps.

Online play and the impact of social

A more recent innovation to the video game industry is the extensive use of online play. Nowadays, gamers have a global network of “friends” that they can rely on to play with at just about any hour of the day. By adding a social, collaborative experience to their games, video game companies can count on their users to continue to play for an extended period of time, even after they’ve beaten the game. Millennials have grown to expect a social component to just about every experience in our day-to-day lives – so why should the workplace be any different? When hiring millennials to a team, think carefully about how each potential candidate would fit with the rest of the team and whether or not they could ever be friends with their peers outside of work. Stronger relationships between peers lead to better collaboration, higher engagement, and longer retention. This often gets overlooked when trying to decide the best candidate for the long-term.

Yes, looking to the gaming industry for talent management strategies is unorthodox, but writing as a millennial that has been with Ceridian for 6 years I can assert that these non-traditional approaches work. Business can’t just follow talent management practices and processes that worked in the past. The needs and expectations of the workforce have changed and it’s time to evolve.


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